This letter was not published in the Straits Times.
31 August 2011
I refer to the letter from the director of corporate and marketing communication of the People's Association "Why opposition MPs cannot be grass-roots advisers". She said, "Besides connecting people to people, grassroots advisers are required to help the Government connect with people and help promote government policies and programs such as anti-dengue and active ageing........
Opposition MPs cannot be expected to do this and thus cannot become advisers to GROs."
I am disappointed with this partisan position taken publicly by a senior civil servant. I would request her to take a more objective look at the mission of the People's Association, which is to build and bridge communities and promote racial harmony and social cohesion in Singapore. I could not detect any reference to the need to link up with the people ONLY through the ruling party which forms the Government.
Members of Parliament from all political parties were elected to represent the people in their constituency. It can be argued that they are part and parcel of the government process of community engagement and representation. They should be entrusted with the role. All MPs, regardless of their political party affiliation, are paid out of public funds and should be required to perform the duties for which they are paid - otherwise, the public funds would be wasted.
I would suspect that the defeated candidates from the ruling party would have to struggle with the indignity of being advisers to grassroots organizations which have to connect with people who have rejected them. It does make a mockery of our democratic system.
After the last general elections, the Prime Minister had sincerely pledged to engage the people of Singapore and to respond objectively. I respect him for that and urge him to take a closer look at this aberration of our democratic process and let the opposition MPs do the job that they have been entrusted with by the people.
If they still do a good job, they deserve to be given the chance to be chosen again by the people. If they do not, despite the level playing field, the decision of the people will be swift and sure.
I would also call on the professionals in the publicly funded statutory bodies to perform their duty in a neutral and non-partisan manner. Singapore has matured and there's no need to perpetuate the political baggage of a different era.
Tan Kin Lian